INTERVIEW

With the demo now concluded, I was able to ask my own series of questions to Mr. Saito and Mr. Ehara, inquiring more about additional details related to Nier: Automata.

EGGPLANTE!: “The original Nier had, as far as I understand it, sort of a human protagonist, but you have moved on to these android characters in the sequel. What was the reason behind the switch?”

MR. SAITO: “It was mainly decided by the storyline, because this game takes place a few thousand years after the previous title, where aliens have invaded the Earth, and they deployed machine lifeforms to do so. And so the humans that were living on the Earth, they needed to flee to the moon, but instead of fighting themselves, they deployed androids. And so, in this world, androids are fighting against machine lifeforms — That is why we had to have androids as lead characters.

And because this game does take place a few thousand years after the previous title, the players wouldn’t need to worry about playing the previous title to enjoy this game. You really don’t need any background knowledge to play the new title. However, for those people who have played the previous title, there will be some characters from the previous game that do appear in this one, so they will be able to join once in a while.”

EGGPLANTE!: “Another thing that I was curious about — When you were wanting to develop Nier: Automata, was there a conscious effort to make a clean slate right from the beginning, or was that something that evolved throughout the development process? Did this start as a more direct follow-up to Nier that became a more tenuous follow-up over time?

MR. SAITO: “Mr. Ehara already had a storyline developed, but when we decided to go with PlatinumGames, have them on board with us, we knew that we would be able to do something very cool with them. And to do that, Mr. Ehara thought that humans might not be able to do — Wherein we would be able to create something cool on-screen. And so that is why we decided to go with android protagonists, and the storyline that we did.”

EGGPLANTE!: “The original Nier was very much about trying to challenge players with heavier themes and inspiration than the average Square Enix RPG. Is this an endeavour that remains true with Nier: Automata? Are you trying to push the envelope in ways that other RPG’s might shy away from?”

MR. SAITO: “Yes, we do think that, or we did try to achieve this more than with the previous title. We would love for everyone to just try playing it and try experiencing that kind of gameplay that we created, as well as the story or emotions that you get from it.”

EGGPLANTE!: “With the first game, you had an age difference in protagonists between separate builds of Nier on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. With this game, in both the PC and PlayStation 4 versions, it appears to be the same protagonists across both platforms. Why make the shift to a standardized protagonist, where the original Nier offered a younger and older protagonist option?”

MR. SAITO: “With the original Nier, since it was a new game, new title, new series, new IP, we wanted as many people as possible to be able to play the game, and that is why we decided to go with the two different versions. It wasn’t really by platform, but more between Japan and the West, [as Japan prefers younger protagonists, while the West takes to older heroes]. For [Nier: Automata], it was very difficult to create two separate versions, but we are very confident that we will be able to create something that is very good, and that would appeal to a global audience, so we decided to go with just one protagonist this time.”

EGGPLANTE!: “PlatinumGames has an incredible history of action games with Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, Vanquish, and more, and I am curious as to what made PlatinumGames the perfect developer for Nier: Automata?”

MR. SAITO: “The younger generation of developers at PlatinumGames really liked Nier, and we were initially thinking about doing more of a remake of the original Nier, the [cancelled] PlayStation Vita version, but because we can work with PlatinumGames, we wanted to take that opportunity to do something very neat with them, something new. Because of our previous title, the action sequences were not as great, and we thought that if we can work with PlatinumGames, we would be able to do something really awesome with them. And so, that is why we decided to create something new with PlatinumGames.”

EGGPLANTE!: “In the modern gaming climate, many action games do have RPG elements. With a heightened emphasis on action, is there anything that really makes Nier: Automata stand out as an RPG, simply beyond crafting and leveling up?”

MR. SAITO: “I believe one element would be the story. We do have the main storyline, and we do have many, many side quests that you can take, which will allow you to dive deeper into the world and the storyline. Also, we have fishing!” [laughs]

EGGPLANTE!: [laughs] “With Nier and Nier: Automata, it very much seems to be about mixing genre sensibilities. Now that this is the second game, would you say this was easier to do in the second game? Since you have experience developing [the blend] once, is it easier to supply those ideas, and put new ones [as well]?”

MR. SAITO: “We do have quite a few new elements in this title that were not present in the previous game, so I do think [development] was equally as challenging. We can’t disclose anything specific right now, but I’m sure that everyone that purchases [Nier: Automata] will be surprised from the minute they start playing the game. I really want to say why right now, but I just can’t.”

EGGPLANTE!: “With the move to current-gen hardware versus the last-gen Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, what would you say were the best opportunities in the upgrade to Steam and PlayStation 4 for the gameplay and presentation that maybe weren’t available with the original last-gen title?”

MR. SAITO: “It would definitely be the 60 frames per second [performance] that would have been difficult, maybe even impossible with the last-generation consoles. That is very big for us. And PlatinumGames have, I believe they have been very particular about that when creating this game as well. I don’t think that there are many developers out there that would even think about creating an open world that is this vast, with action sequences like this at 60fps, and an RPG all at once.”

EGGPLANTE!: “That’s quite ambitious! Regarding the difference between the PC and PlayStation 4 versions, is it going to be a very distinct experience between the platforms, or is it going to be along the same lines regardless of whether you are playing on PC or PlayStation 4? Also, do you plan to take advantage of the PlayStation 4 Pro [with Nier: Automata]?”

MR. SAITO: “For the PC, you will need to satisfy the minimum specs to play it of course, but we do plan to give the same experience throughout. It will be the same experience across PC and PlayStation 4. As for the PlayStation 4 Pro, we are trying. We are trying really hard to achieve 4K while still maintaining 60fps.”

EGGPLANTE!: “Are there any final thoughts you would like to share about Nier: Automata before its release next year?”

MR. EHARA: “The most important point for me would be to reiterate that you really don’t need to play the previous title to enjoy this game, and you can just pick up and play this one without really needing to pick up the previous one and play that one.”

MR. SAITO: [laughs] “I am sure that Final Fantasy XV will be fun to play, but Nier: Automata will be fun to play as well.”

MR. EHARA: “And for those players who have experienced some emotional draw from the previous game, or were emotionally touched with the previous game, I am not sure if you will feel the same kinds of emotions from this game, but I am sure that [Nier: Automata] is very emotional and touching as well. I would love for everyone to look forward to that also.”

[This led to the producers showing me some B-roll footage about how concept art is being effortlessly recreated in Nier: Automata, before I jokingly chimed in that I wanted to see the fishing before we were done. To my surprise, Mr. Saito and Mr. Ehara agreed, and I got possibly one of the first tastes of the fishing in Nier: Automata outside of Square Enix, albeit only in pre-recorded footage.]

MR. SAITO: “You can fish wherever there is water. [In the example shown], [2B] can throw her pod into the water to catch fish.”

EGGPLANTE!: “So your pod is your rod in this game?”

MR. SAITO: [laughs] “Exactly! This appears to be a carp that she just caught.”

EGGPLANTE!: “So the fish you catch, can they used as healing items, or are they just trophies?”

MR. SAITO: “You can sell [fish] to make money, or there are some other things you can do with fish that are going to be very important.”

EGGPLANTE!: “I imagine it’s another secret, but are there other minigames besides fishing?”

MR. SAITO: “Yes, there will be a lot [of minigames]. There are some that don’t actually involve the storyline as well, but we really can’t disclose anything specific yet.”

[The demo moves into 2B attempting to fish in a sewer]

EGGPLANTE!: “This certainly doesn’t seem like the best place to fish!”

MR. SAITO: “Just look at what we can actually catch in here.”

[2B reels up what appears to be an empty septic tank from the sewer water]

EGGPLANTE!: “Oh wow!”

MR. SAITO: “This is garbage that you can do different things with.”

EGGPLANTE!: “Colour me impressed!”

(Nier: Automata will release for PC and PlayStation 4 in 2017)

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About The Author

Senior Editor

Brent Botsford has reviewed video games, movies and television for over a decade. He is also a Twitch Affiliate at twitch.tv/venuszen , presenting new, retro and independent games as the, "Sixth-Handsomest Gamer on the Internet', VenusZen, flexing his personality with comedy, heart and just that right dose of sex appeal.

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